Saturday, October 20, 2018

Clairin Casimir Rhum is Being Recalled in the United States for Lead Contamination

What you need to know about the TTB’s recall of the Haitian eaux-de-vie
     Clairin Casimir rhum is facing a voluntary recall. One of a select number of clairins—an eaux-de-vie similar to white agricole rhums—produced in Haiti and distributed in the United States, the Casimir brand is being recalled due to the presence of lead. The distributor, MHW, based in Manhasset, New York, initiated the recall on Wednesday.

     The lead discovery came in response to a consumer complaint placed with the Alcohol and Tobacco Trade and Tax Bureau (TTB) this summer. “The TTB receives consumer complaints on a regular basis,” says Tom Hogue, director of Congressional and Public Affairs for the TTB, all of which they investigate. Some of those complaints lead nowhere, suggests Hogue, while others end up in a recall. During this investigation, the TTB obtained a bottle of Clairin Casimir Rum from Vanderbilt Wine Merchants in Brooklyn, New York, on August 8, and analyzed it for the presence of prohibited materials. Upon determining that the Casimir had elevated lead levels of 138 parts per billion, they consulted with the FDA to determine whether lead at those levels, present within an alcoholic beverage, met the standard of being a health hazard.   On October 9, the TTB sent MHW a letter requesting their participation in a voluntary recall, which MHW initiated on October 10.
     While the value of 138 ppb sounds excessive, whether it meets the standard of high risk has—to some extent—to do with the delivery mechanism. Lead levels in apple juice, for example, which is commonly consumed by children face a lower threshold than lead levels in beverages whose consumption is limited to adults, according to the TTB. In 1993, the FDA established that lead levels should not exceed 80 ppb in juice packed in lead-soldered cans. Since then, Codex Alimentarius Commission, an international food standards organization that establishes safe levels for the protection of consumers, further established a maximum level of 50 ppb for lead in ready-to-drink fruit juices.    In response to the TTB’s request for analysis, the FDA affirmed that the lead levels in Clairins Casimir posed a health risk, particularly for women of childbearing age and for any developing fetus that might be exposed. The TTB’s October 9 letter explains that, according to the FDA, the blood lead level (BLL) in pregnant women should be no higher than 5 micrograms per deciliter to limit lead exposure to a developing fetus, and that 12.5 micrograms of lead per day would achieve this 5 BLL. Per the FDA’s calculations, the 138 ppb of lead would result in an intake of 17 micrograms per day. It also stated that lead and alcohol—which can cause toxicity to the brain of a developing child—could also be more hazardous in combination than as separate parts.   According to Herbert Linge, president of Berling S.A., the bottler of the Casimir, the company has also tested the rum and found lead levels to be lower than those reported by the FDA and TTB, and within acceptable limits. They are currently awaiting additional testing results from California, where the rum is also in distribution. La Maison & Velier, the importer who first brought clairin to the U.S. and Italy, had the Casimir tested in Italy and also found lower lead levels. Those reports have been sent to the TTB.
     “The bottles are also completely within the parameters of European safety, so this is a U.S. recall only,” says Kate Perry, U.S. market manager for La Maison & Velier. Allowable lead levels in Europe are 150ppb, therefore, the recall is limited to the U.S.   For now, bartenders and retailers should remove any Clairin Casimir from inventory. MHW is encouraging consumers who have bottles to call 516-869-9170 ext. 306 for instructions on returns and reimbursement.